The Hondells and Their Hit Single “Little Honda”

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Introduction to The Hondells

The Hondells were a 60s music-era American surf rock/pop group known for their 1964 Top 10 hit “Little Honda.” The Hondells weren’t a true “band” per se, but rather a manufactured group which was a brainchild of producer Gary Usher. Usher himself had worked with the Beach Boys, who originally recorded “Little Honda.” Brian Wilson and Mike Love composed “Little Honda” as a paean to the Honda motorbikes which spread in popularity in Southern California during the early sixties. The Beach Boys’ original version was included in their album All Summer Long, which Usher gave to Chuck Girard, former vocalist of another band called The Castells. Usher told Girard to study the album and learn “Little Honda.” Usher then assembled a group of studio musicians to record an album dedicated to anything Honda, which what could be well referred to as “hot rod” music. Usher and lyricist Roger Christian wrote all the other songs for the yet-to-be recorded album which would be Go Little Honda. When “Little Honda” was released, it peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 in 1964. Their next two singles “My Buddy Seat” and “Younger Girl” didn’t perform well as “Little Honda” did, and they disbanded in 1970. But for such a fictional, manufactured band, the Hondells did surprisingly well in terms of chart performance, as well as the quality of their output.

The Hondells’ early musical career

The surf rock band The Hondells were a Los Angeles, California band formed in 1964. Producer Gary Usher gathered several studio musicians to form a manufactured music group. Among the  members were Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Richard A. Podolor, Joe Kelly, Chuck Girard and Curt Boettcher. Campbell went on to become a famous singer, while Blaine became one of the respected drummers who famously worked with the legendary group of studio musicians, the Wrecking Crew.

The Hondells’ lone hit “Little Honda”

During the popularity of Honda motor bikes in Southern California in the early 1960’s, the Beach Boys members Mike Love & Brian Wilson came up with the song “Little Honda” and later gave it to The Hondells. In 1964, the song was later recorded on Mercury Records and released it as a carrier single for their album All Summer Long.

Did you know?

  • Honda was originally a company built to manufacture bicycles. After World War II, Soichiro Honda and his team created an engine that could be attached to a bike. By 1964, they had grown into the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. The famous Gold Wing was introduced and has been in production since 1974. Eventually, the company moved forward. Honda Accord, In 1982 became the first foreign manufacturer’s car to be built in the United States, specifically at the Honda plant in Marysville, Ohio. 
  •  Soichiro Honda left school at 15 and began working as a mechanic. In 1922, Soichiro Honda dropped out of school and started working as a mechanic at Tokyo Art Shokai, an automobile maintenance company. Six years later, he returned to his hometown of Tenyru and started a car repair business. In 1937, Honda established Tokai Seiki to manufacture piston rings for Toyota. Unfortunately, his work was destroyed by bombing during World War II, and he sold the rest of the company to Toyota. Honda reorganized in 1946 and established the Honda Technical Research Institute to manufacture and sell motorized bicycles. The success of motorcycles led to the establishment of the Honda Motor Company in 1948. Today, Honda is one of the world’s leading automotive brands. 
  • Honda was more than just a founder’s name. It turns out Honda means “original rice paddy” in Japanese. It was a company name that reflected the rural landscape of Japan at the time of its founding and was trustworthy. Honda is one of the largest engine manufacturers in the world and remains on the top list for providing quality engines.
  • Honda offers more than just engines. Honda also manufactures products like personal watercraft, ATVs, airplanes, mountain bikes, lawnmowers, and solar cells. They even made a humanoid robot called ASIMO. Not just that, Honda also started shipping soybeans from the United States to Japan in 1986. Ohio has an abundance of soybeans, and Japan has a soybean market. 

The ex-Castells vocalist Chuck Girard was given a copy of All Summer Long by producer Usher. After that, Girard was asked by Usher to learn “Little Honda.” To enhance the recording of the song, Usher recruited studio musicians Campbell and Blaine to record it for a Honda-related compilation album that would be released by Mercury Records.

Usher promptly formed a group just for promotional purposes. Backing vocalist Ritchie Burns quickly got the lead singer slot. Unfortunately, he wasn’t available for the band’s photo shoot for the album (for Burns was also working in a bank that time); instead he had his friends to pose for the pictorial. After giving a lot of thought and discussion on the group’s name (they even considered “The Rising Sons”), they finally settled on the The Hondells. Then they went on to release “Little Honda” as a single under the group’s new name, in 1964.

Around that time, their single “Little Honda’ was climbing the pop charts and ended up at #9. The Beach Boys also released a version of their song which was a minor hit for the band.

The Hondells’ other releases and later years

The follow-up singles after “My Buddy Seat” (1964) and “Younger Girl” (1964) peaked modestly on the pop chart at #87 and #52 respectively. Since they weren’t able to make hits anymore, The Hondells called it quits in 1970.

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